So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom 1:15-16).
Introduction to the Gospel1
As a church that is committed to making and multiplying disciples of Christ who magnify the glory of God, we must be equally committed to the faithful proclamation of the message that has been given to us by God. A message that turns rebellious sinners into redeemed followers of Christ. That message is the gospel.
This gospel has been described in Scripture as “glorious” (1 Tim 1:11), “the word of truth” (Col. 1:5), and “the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Paul declared, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). He said of anyone who preached a message different from the true gospel, “he is to be accursed” (Gal 1:8-9). Obviously, this subject is of maximum importance for any church that wishes God’s blessing on its outreach to its community and the world.
What does someone need to understand to become a follower of Christ? We know that the truth sets people free (John 8:32), and that God’s word is truth (John 17:17). But what elements of God’s word must be grasped in order for condemned sinners to be reconciled to their holy Creator? It is essential to begin at the right place. We must begin with a radical commitment to uphold God’s honor first and foremost.
1. Our Message Begins with Who is God?
- God made everything – Because God created all things, everything belongs to Him and we are accountable to put Him at the center of our lives. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1). The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it (Ps 24:1).
- God is a love-giver – He loves all people and wants to redeem us as a Father, bringing us home into His family as His adopted spiritual children. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (Gal 4:4-5).
- God is a Law-maker – He is a morally perfect Judge whose instructions He expects us to obey as we travel His road to life. Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48). For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (Jas 2:10).
Since God made you, you belong to Him and are accountable to follow His instructions for a relationship of love centered on Him.
2. The Road of Life is God-centered Living
- God designed a one way road – All of us are commanded to follow this road, enjoying friendship with God now and later in His eternal home. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matt 7:13-14).
- God has two rules for our journey – We must love God with everything that is in us, and more than anyone or anything else. And we must love all people as we love ourselves, and always serve and do what is best for them. And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matt 22:37-40).
- God’s rules must be perfectly kept – Obeying His rules perfectly keeps us on the road to real love and a home now and after we die. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (Jas 2:10).
The two rules for God-centered living of perfect love for God and others, shows us that God’s standards measure all our actions and attitudes.
3. The Road of Sin is Self-centered Living.
- Failing to obey and love God is sin – Our failure to live by God’s standards for life is disobedience to God who made the rules—this is sin. As it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:10, 23).
- Sin separates you from God – Our relationship with God is broken—now there is a huge gap, we are unable to please God and change for the better. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Rom 1:24-25). All our attempts to do good and make things right with God fail – For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away (Isa 64:6).
- Sin is punished by a God of justice – God cannot just overlook evil. He must judge and punish sinners who have turned from their loving father onto the road of death and hell. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23).
Having become self-centered, we are separated from God, unable to earn forgiveness, enslaved to our desires, experiencing guilt, and headed down the road to a hopeless eternity. That leaves us with a serious question and a big dilemma.
A Serious Question – Are we convinced we’re lost? A Big Dilemma – How to get right with God?
4. The Way Back to Life is Jesus Christ.
- God provides a bridge back to Him – He became the God-man Jesus Christ because He loves sinners. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form (Col 2:9).
- Jesus Christ keeps the rules for life – As our substitute during His lifetime here on earth, He perfectly meets all God’s requirements for a moral life on our behalf. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21).
- Jesus Christ takes the punishment – He submits to God’s holy anger against sinners during His death on the cross. Bearing the sins of others, He dies as a substitute, taking the penalty we deserve, liberating us from sin’s enslavement. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).
- Jesus Christ rises from the dead – His actions are approved by the Father and He offers true righteousness and forgiveness, qualifying undeserving sinners as adopted sons. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:4).
God initiates a solution to man’s enslavement to sin by offering His Son to give sinners a free gift of forgiveness and righteousness, bridging the gap. Instead of trying to earn our own righteousness, Jesus our substitute gives us His perfect goodness.
5. Our Response is to Come Home to Jesus
- God our maker calls us back to Him – We are to do more than just intellectually acknowledge these historical facts—but to wholeheartedly respond to the force of these truths. Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge (Ps 51:1-4).
- Turning from our sinful lifestyle and efforts of self-justification, to surrender to God’s ownership of our life. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon (Isa 55:7).
- Trusting in Jesus as our forgiver (erases sin) who perfectly obeyed (giver of moral purity) enabling us to follow God’s road plan for life. If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Rom 10:9-10).
Three possible responses – 1) Receive Christ – Realize self-centeredness, turn from sin, trust in the risen Jesus for forgiveness of your sins, give control to God. Receive Christ as your Lord and Savior; 2) Reject Christ or 3) Investigate further.
1 Exerpted from To Tell the Truth, by Will Metzger.